The fifteenth day of Putin’s offensive in Ukraine was marked by the fallout from the previous day’s brutal Russian attack on a maternity and children’s hospital, with pregnant women and newborn babies, in Mariupol. The shelling killed at least three people, including a baby girl, and left dozens wounded.
The city, on the coast of the Sea of Azov, has been under siege by Russian troops since 25 February. In recent days, civilian casualties have risen as the invaders of Ukraine have failed to honour fragile ceasefire agreements lasting only a few hours, which would allow humanitarian corridors to be opened for the evacuation of women, children, the elderly, the sick, etc.
The trapped civilians are surviving in makeshift shelters with almost no heating, electricity, food, drinking water or medicine. According to the Red Cross, the situation in Mariupol is “apocalyptic.” The corpses lie in the streets or are hastily buried in mass graves, given the relentless Russian shelling. Putin is using the same method against the Ukrainians as the Nazi siege of Leningrad during World War II.
The city’s authorities estimate that the death toll exceeds 1,200 civilians. Russia intends to take over Mariupol to create a corridor from Ukraine’s militarily occupied Crimea peninsula, annexed by Putin in 2014, to the Donbas separatist areas.
Mariupol’s plight mirrors that of other Ukrainian cities. Moscow and Kyiv agreed on seven humanitarian corridors: in all of them, there are allegations of non-compliance with the ceasefire. Since the beginning of Putin’s invasion, more than two million people have fled Ukraine in dramatic conditions. The UN reports 474 civilian deaths. The Ukrainian government, more than 2,000. Russia continues to deny that it is waging a war, claiming that its presence in Ukraine is not an invasion but a “special military operation” in self-defence…
The aggressor’s cynicism is used against its people. More than 10,000 demonstrators have been arrested in several Russian cities for opposing the war.
The Russian offensive is intensifying against civilians. The high command intends to terrorise and demoralise the Ukrainian people, who, against all odds, are showing stubborn resistance to the invader.
Despite its enormous military superiority, Putin’s army has so far failed to take almost any major city. He did not conquer Kharkiv, the second most populous; Odesa, the third; or Mariupol. In the only city the Russians claim to control, Kherson, there are demonstrations by hundreds of Ukrainians defying the occupying soldiers. The assault on the capital, Kyiv, announced as imminent ten days ago, is almost at a standstill. The convoy of tanks, armoured vehicles, troops, more than 60 kilometres long, heading for Kyiv, suffered a series of logistical, organisational and communication problems. This allows the Ukrainian army and resistance to gain time, organise, resist, attack light fuel and ammunition supply vehicles, thus delaying the advance of Putin’s heavy armoured vehicles and troops.
For the moment, Kyiv is on high alert, with barricades, soldiers and militiamen patrolling the streets. The city is bristling with weapons of all kinds, from the heaviest to the Molotov cocktails with which the population is preparing to meet the attackers.
On the diplomatic front, Putin made his demands more concrete: Ukraine’s “neutrality”, i.e. its renunciation of NATO and EU membership; legal recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea; acceptance of the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk “Republics”. Moscow, despite military setbacks, is unwilling to ease its demands. Putin is acting under his conviction that Ukraine is not an independent state, but part of Russia. He denies Ukraine its right to national existence. The Russian oligarchy’s conditions are unacceptable. They amount not to negotiation but capitulation across the board. At the meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in Turkey, Lavrov opposed the Ukrainian proposal for a 24-hour ceasefire to meet the most urgent humanitarian demands. For him, such a thing was not even on the table. On the attack on the maternity hospital in Mariupol, he claimed that it was a hideout for cells of “Ukrainian nationalists,” not a hospital with civilians inside.
Ukrainian President Zelensky, a sold-out pro-imperialist right-wing bourgeois politician, declared that he might consider the terms of Putin’s ultimatum. Zelensky, his cabinet and the entire Ukrainian oligarchy will sooner or later demonstrate the intrinsic cowardice of a ruling class subservient to the interests of imperialism and, until recently, the Kremlin as well. The Ukrainian government is incapable of confronting Russian aggression to the end.
The Ukrainian and world working class must not put any trust in Zelensky, who will try to betray the resistance. It can only rely on its forces, on the creative capacity, on the resistance that the workers and the people can display.
Everything indicates that the siege of Kyiv, at one time or another, will happen. The ground attack on the other strategic cities, too. Putin will not stop, even if the Russian economy is hard hit by the heavy US and European sanctions. The Russian dictator is playing out his political destiny in Ukraine. The disparity of forces will probably tip the balance in Putin’s favour. But the resilience of the Ukrainian people, whatever happens, is already indelible. The peoples of the world are with Ukraine. Putin has already lost the political battle, despite his apologists on the extreme right and, shamefully, also on the left.
All support to Ukraine! Defeat Putin’s troops and mercenaries!
All out on the streets to express solidarity with the independence of Ukraine and the resistance of its people!
Weapons for the resistance!
USA, NATO and EU out of Ukraine!
Dissolution of NATO and CSTO!